We were all set—except for that part of my mind which was tumbling down the new crevasse in my heart.
"Yeah, but Francine," I yelled up to her an hour later. It was still dark, and we had already crossed one formidable crevasse over a little footbridge of snow. "Weren't you at all surprised when they found your grandfather? I mean, don't you think that's pretty amazing after 31 years?"
"Mais non" she yelled back down. "C'est normal!" which is how the Swiss French describe anything that seems perfectly natural.
I didn't say anything. The puniness of my voice had alarmed me. Also, it occurred to me that a) she would have thought it strange if he hadn't turned up, and b) there were plenty of people back home who wouldn't consider hiking up a glacier at four in the morning normal.
We pressed onward and upward in the dark. The only sounds I heard were the crunching of my boots in the snow and the crunching of my headache in the raw bitter-cold wind. (I had been much too excited about climbing up to 4,000 meters to sleep at all.) The tip of my nose was dead. The hot tea I'd brought in my canteen had frozen solid. My feet ached in their new boots—we'd hiked six hours the day before to get up to the cabin. My unsettled stomach was getting more unsettled dreading the 3,800-meter altitude we would soon reach, the height where people—if they are going to get sick from the thin air and vomit or pass out—tend to get sick. My thigh muscles felt heavy enough to rip loose and drop like sand bags down through my feet through the mountain.
But all my aches and fears vanished the instant I turned around and noticed the sun coming up. Lord. If a mind that had spent 31 years suspended in the frozen grip of a glacier had suddenly been broiled awake and regained consciousness, it wouldn't have been more startled. All the sunrises I've ever seen in my life might as well have been made out of construction paper compared with that sunrise. And we were on top of it; we were on top of the morning. Suddenly I felt a pull around my waist. My ropemates, who had stopped to indulge my daydreaming, wanted to get going. With a renewed vigor, as if the sun were pushing me up from behind, I grabbed hold of the rope and started walking. I didn't worry anymore about what I was standing on; I knew that the top of this glacier, although it might be as treacherous as the middle of a frozen lake, would offer me a whole new world view.